Thursday, 26 May 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): I remain concerned about the political and human rights situation in Sri Lanka. Last year Ireland, along with the other Member States of the European Union, suspended the duty-free access which had been granted to Sri Lankan exports under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP plus). This was prompted by the refusal of the Sri Lankan authorities to deliver a written undertaking on three human rights conventions dealing with torture, children’s rights and civil and political rights.
A critical issue in any discussion would be the treatment of members of the Tamil population and more broadly, the question of national reconciliation. It is my view that national reconciliation will not be possible without addressing the grievances of the Tamil people. This is borne out by the ongoing exchange of allegations of war crimes and human rights abuses levelled at both parties to the conflict.
To address these allegations, last year UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed an expert panel, chaired by Marzuki Darusman, the UN’s special rights investigator to North Korea, to investigate the allegations. The panel delivered its report to the Secretary General on 12 April. The report states that there are credible allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by both the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
I fully support the call by High Representative Ashton of 10 May for an independent investigation to be undertaken into the allegations of misconduct on both sides, particularly during the final stages of the conflict. As we know from our own experience, such an investigation could make an important contribution to building lasting peace and stability in Sri Lanka.  Officials from my Department have recently reiterated this point to their Sri Lankan counterparts.
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